Business and Operations
Pizza on Fire: July-August 2012
By Tom Stankiewicz
The unavoidable investment
By Tom Stankiewicz
Equipment plays a huge role in operating a successful pizzeria.
Equipment plays a huge role in operating a successful pizzeria. It is also one of those unavoidable investments that will end up costing you quite a bit of money. However, with careful research, strategic buying and regular maintenance, this crucial investment can help, not hinder, your store’s bottom line.
From a pizza store perspective, the list of equipment needed can be very long when you factor in pizza ovens, walk-in coolers, refrigerators, fryers, etc. Anyone who has opened a pizzeria knows that most of the start-up capital is consumed by essential equipment that allows the business to exist.
Some restaurant owners refuse to update their equipment and strongly believe that they need only replace it when it breaks. That philosophy makes sense in certain situations, for example, when the equipment is very unique and almost impossible to replace. In this case, it might mean that replacing it will cost a lot of money and it just makes sense to use it until it gives up on its own. On the other hand, you need to consider that old equipment might be cutting into your profits. If you are spending money on repairs once a month, this equipment definitely needs to be added to the list of replacements.
Old equipment is not energy efficient. This is one reason for a constantly increasing electricity bill. Even if you implement various energy-saving measures, you will only notice a true difference once the old equipment is gone. My advice is to look for energy-efficient equipment, so running refrigerators don’t cost you more than is necessary. It’s true that the initial cost for new equipment is considerable, but in the long run you will get your money back. A few years ago energy-efficient equipment wasn’t as popular as it is today, so for some business owners covering the high cost was just not realistic. Today, the prices are more comparable and a lot more people are purchasing energy-efficient units.
Once you decide that it’s time to open your wallet and replace some equipment, you will find the best deals are for the pieces between one and two years old that come with a warranty. You will pay considerably less than if you were purchasing a brand new unit. The warranty gives you this extra peace of mind that if something breaks the warranty is still active. In this situation, you win on both ends. You’re saving money plus you get a safety net if some part stops working.
When the equipment has been used for just a few years, it’s best to ask for a copy of maintenance records. Some sellers will offer them up front as a sort of guarantee that the equipment has been looked after by professionals. For a buyer, maintenance records offer a quick reference check, as you can call the company with a specific serial number and ask for repair details. That ability will allow you to make an informed decision about your purchase and possibly give you some leverage to bargain for a lower price.
Once you have the equipment, the most crucial part of maintenance is to keep it clean. You would be surprised how many people forget about it. It goes without saying that at the end of the closing shift the pizza store goes through regular cleanup to get ready for business the next day. The part that many of us tend to forget is to shut off the equipment and give it a good, thorough cleaning. For example, pizza ovens should be shut down about three times per year and all the insides cleaned. The same goes for refrigerator units. It’s important to clean the dust of the radiator and condensers. Most of the time this is exactly what causes the refrigerators to stop working.
Your used equipment can be resold for parts or as whole units. You can definitely try selling it directly to the buyer by simply placing an advertisement in a newspaper or online classified section. Another option would be to sell your used equipment to a business that specializes in selling it. If you’re busy and don’t have time to deal with buyers, then this is a handy alternative.
Do some research before you buy new equipment for your pizza store. Learn about the average price for the unit you plan to buy, so you don’t overpay. Look at the pros and cons for buying new versus used equipment; this strategy can save you money that, in turn, can be invested somewhere else. Lastly, buy only equipment that you will need to run the business. Don’t buy five fryers because you think you will need them. Wait until you see that they are necessary. In the meantime invest your money in activities that build a bigger customer base.
Tom Stankiewicz has been in the pizza business for more than 15 years. He has been the proprietor of Bondi’s Pizza in London, Ont., since 2000, and is president of the Canadian Pizza Team.